The headline on this story is a good one.  The interest in cloud for e-mail is driven by CIOs and CFOs, and this article lays out the reasons why.  As we discussed in the Notes/Domino strategy session at Lotusphere, the ground is shifting a bit, and we expect hybrid environments -- mix of on-premises, cloud, and even appliance delivery -- to be the norm in 3-5 years.  There's still plenty for IT architects, admins, and developers to do in a hybrid world, of course, and adopting to the shift is a good opportunity for all of us.

The Information Week article has a good sense as to what's really happening:

Then there's a little company called IBM. Trying to revitalize its Lotus messaging brand, it's pushing LotusLive, which bundles SaaS-based e-mail, IM, Web conferencing, and file sharing. Companies can choose a hosted version of Lotus Notes or go for a browser-based e-mail client with iNotes.

IBM this month showed off integrations of LotusLive with Salesforce.com data, Skype voice-over-IP calls, and UPS delivery data. For instance, the Salesforce integration adds a LotusLive tab to a person's Salesforce.com interface, to launch meetings and share and edit documents. The company's marquee deal so far is the 100,000-seat win from Panasonic in January.

Google's pricing seems to be the biggest force of change in the messaging market. With its free consumer version, many people have used Google's browser-based e-mail interface before enterprise adoption. Bundling e-mail and a productivity suite puts price pressure on Microsoft's giant e-mail and Office franchises. But Google, which gets 97% of its revenue from advertising and won't say how many paying business e-mail customers it has, still is learning the enterprise IT market. With its latest word processing and spreadsheet upgrade, it dropped the ability to use the programs offline, giving customers a month's notice and saying it will work on bringing it back. Google says offline isn't a very popular feature, but enterprise customers tend not to like those kinds of road map surprises.

All these vendors are going after more than just e-mail. Their goal is to control a customer's entire messaging and collaboration stack while also promising to relieve the IT operational burden. The shift from the premises to the cloud takes away some of Microsoft's home court advantage and creates opportunities for players new and old to grab market share.

Companies still can't live without e-mail, but it's clear many can do without running the hardware, software, and storage that on-premises e-mail requires. CIOs are increasingly comfortable with SaaS and hosted alternatives. Of course, companies considering SaaS e-mail must do their homework to choose a financially viable provider that can meet their uptime and feature requirements. But no CIO should do an e-mail upgrade without at least considering SaaS.
What's interesting is that the optics of the market are different for each vendor.  IBM looks at this as an opportunity to provide the right solutions to customers, regardless of delivery method.  Microsoft, on the other hand, is ruled by greed, as described in this Computerworld article yesterday:
"What we've done [in the past] is sell software," Elop said. "In the cloud world we're still selling that same software but we're also participating in a bigger part of customers' IT budgets. We're going after more of the pot."
Link: Information Week: Why CIOs Are Choosing Cloud E-Mail >

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